Blessings in a Backpack Getting Started Locally

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Published on April 25 2013 2:41 pm
Last Updated on July 14 2013 4:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

A group of concerned parents, local businesses and educators -- who have come together to fight childhood hunger locally -- are launching a new program that will provide food over the weekends to local students in need.

Over 50 percent of students in the Effingham Community Unit 40 School District are eligible for the Federally Funded Free or Reduced Lunch Program with several of those children going hungry over the weekends when their parents or guardians are unable to provide adequate food to meet their nutritional needs.  As a result, a group of community members led by Jamie Waldhoff, Kelsey Weber and Nikki Jones have teamed together to bring Blessings in a Backpack to students who suffer from hunger during the weekends.

“This is a real issue, right here, right now in our own community. There are hundreds of children in Effingham who do not have access to the foods they need over the weekends,” said Waldhoff. “As a community, we must react to this situation and do what is needed to insure children are not going hungry when they are not at school to receive food.”

Through Blessings in a Backpack, students receive food on Fridays in their backpacks with staples that require little to no preparation, allowing them to eat over the weekends. Backpack food includes food items, like granola bars, juice boxes, instant macaroni and oatmeal.

The local program will begin in August at South Side School, Central School and Fresh Start TLC. Once the program is up and running in these schools, the program will then be extended to the remaining Unit 40 schools.

“Blessings in a Backpack will begin serving approximately 130 students at the start of the school year, and it is our intention for these numbers to increase as needs arise throughout the year,” said Waldhoff. “However, before we can start to fill any backpacks and send children home with food for the weekend, we need the community’s help in raising money.”

The organization is currently promoting the “Power of 80,” meaning $80 feeds one child in the program for the entire 38-week school year. Through the local program, 100 percent of the funds raised for Effingham will go toward the purchase of food for Effingham students.

“For just $80, you can feed a child in the program for the whole school year.  And, your entire $80 donation does go to purchase the needed food,” said Waldhoff. “This food nourishes the children and gives them the strength to succeed. Better test scores, improved reading skills, positive behavior, improved health and increased attendance have all been attributed to the success of this program,” she added.

As a non-for-profit organization, all donations are tax deductible and can be made via the website www.blessingsinabackpack.org or by check donations (payable to Blessings in a Backpack - Effingham, IL) mailed to: Blessings in a Backpack Effingham, P.O. BOX 28, Effingham, IL  62401.  Local organizers can be reached by email at effinghambackpack@yahoo.com.

 “We are reaching out to all members of the Effingham Community -- parents, local businesses, community members. You can help in so many ways by volunteering your time, fundraising, donating resources and making monetary donations,” said Waldhoff. “As a community we must react to this situation - Hunger doesn't stop for these children on the weekends!

”Blessings in a Backpack" provides the opportunity to directly impact the lives of elementary school children by providing them with food on the weekends. This food nourishes the children and gives them the strength to succeed—ultimately transforming the children’s lives and the community around them. Nationwide, 59,000 children are being fed at 390 schools throughout 35 states, as well as three other countries: Canada, Colombia and Haiti.

For more information or to donate, visit www.blessingsinabackpack.org or “like” the local chapter on facebook at Blessings in a Backpack - Effingham, IL.